“No lies about your neighbor.” Ex. 20:16
This Commandment has to do with controlling our tongue. That is a very important, but extremely difficult task. James tells us the tongue can be tamed by no man, James 3:1-8.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin comments: Over the past decade, whenever I have lectured throughout the country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words, I have asked audiences if they can go for twenty-four hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, anybody. Invariably, a minority of listeners raise their hands signifying yes, some laugh, and quite a large number call out, no! I respond by saying, "Those who can’t answer yes must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go for twenty-four hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. If you cannot go twenty-four hours without a drink, you’re most likely an alcoholic. Similarly, if you cannot go for twenty-four hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue."
Few people realize the awesome, destructive power of the human tongue. Because of a miss-spoken word, homes have been splintered, reputations shattered and lives literally destroyed and even ended. The little piece of muscle that lies in your mouth behind your lips and your teeth can bless or bruise, heal or hurt, love or lie. It all depends upon how you use it.
This verse deals primarily with one’s testimony in a trial setting. God says that we must never be guilty of lying about our neighbor and causing them to suffer. We are exhorted to always be truthful and absolutely honest when dealing with another person. As we consider some of what God has said about the tongue, may He help us to understand that every time we speak of another, we literally hold others reputation in our hands.
1. A Reputation is a Valuable Possession
According to the Bible, one’s "good name", or reputation, is far more valuable than riches or expensive ointments, Pro. 22:1; Eccl. 7:1. A. Your Reputation Determines the Level Of Respect You Receive - No one puts much confidence in a person who is dishonest, deceptive, or otherwise living his life in a sinful, shameful manner. I really respect people about whom I never hear a negative remark. Jesus was such a man
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52.
We should do all that is in our power to see that we never allow our names to be associated with that which is disrespectful and shameful. It will undermine your good name and cause people to lose respect for you. Your life ought to be a beacon of integrity and decency.
B. Your Reputation Determines The Level Of The Response You Receive - Every Christian wants to be respected as a Christian and have his/her testimony be respected and responded too in a positive manner. The type of response that we can expect will always be determined by the kind of life others see us living! It has been said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying." In other words, the world will never believe what say until they can see what we believe!
Your reputation is important, because what people perceive you to be is usually a fair indicator of what you really are. Your reputation is what others think you are and character is what you really are. However, people can misread us and misunderstand us and cause us to be something less than we actually are. As a general rule, your reputation is a direct result of your character. In other words, men think the way they do about you because of the way they see you act and live before them.
I apologize for yet putting up one more picture of the Pope who passed away in the last week but lay aside all those who were obligated to mourn and you are left with hundreds of thousands of people who grieved for a man who represented love and peace and care for everyone. He was mourned by many not because he was the Catholic pope but because he came across as a leader that genuinely cared about others. Do you think he gossiped about other world leaders or told stories that ruined the reputations of others?
Your own reputation is valuable. Guard it with your very life. Pray that others will do the same. You cannot be responsible for what others do with your reputation, but you are responsible for what you do with theirs.
2. A Reputation can be Vandalized Publicly
A. It Is a Serious Thing - When we undermine the reputation of another by the words we speak, we are guilty of destroying that persons respectability and credibility before others. We are guilty of doing unspeakable damage to a person’s life and ministry by the words we say about them.
I remember reading of a woman who was guilty of gossiping about her pastor. She was convicted and went to him to apologize to him and to try and make restitution for her wrongdoing. The pastor graciously accepted her apology and then told her that if she wanted to make it all right again, that she should take a chicken, kill it, pluck it, carry its feathers to the top of the highest building in town and cast its feathers to the four winds. When this was done she was to return to the Pastor. She carried out his directive and returned to him. He looked at her and said, "Now go and collect every one of those feathers." She replied, in horror, "That is impossible!" He said, "So, it is impossible or you to take back all those things you have said about me."
The words of a false witness can be forgiven, but they will never be forgotten by those who are touched by their poison! Eternal damage can be done to reputations and ministries. People can even wind up in Hell because of the lies of a foolish person. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have absolutely no use for a gossip and a talebearer!
B. It Is a Sad Thing - It is a sad day when one person thinks they have to repeat something on another. This is behavior that is hateful to God and demeaning to men! There are several ways in which people are guilty of using their tongues against another. 1. Slander - defined as, "Communication of false statements injurious to a person’s reputation." We are guilty of slander when we knowingly lie about another person in an effort to harm their reputation.
2. Lying - "A false statement deliberately presented as being true. “A lie will get half way around the world before the truth has chance to get its pants on.” Winston Churchill
3. Criticism - What I am referring to are statements made about another’s actions, ways and deeds in an effort to hurt their reputation. Constructive criticism is a good thing, but destructive criticism is devastating to you and the people you are criticizing.
The vulture sees nothing but that which is rotten and dead. He does not see the flowers and the green grass. He does not see the living things all around. His focus is on that which is dead and corrupt. There are a lot of vultures around these days. A lady was looking out her window, watching her neighbor hang her wash on the clothesline. As she watched, she remarked to a friend, "Our neighbor sure isn’t clean. Why, just look at those streaks on her laundry." Her friend replied, "Those streaks are on your windows, not her clothes!" Sometimes, it is the sin in our own heat that makes us look for the evil in others!
4. Tale-bearing - This is the practice of spreading gossip and rumors about others. It may be that the rumors are true. But, even that does not give us the right to tear down another’s reputation. If we learn a secret about our neighbor, then we had better tell no one but God. He knows how to deal with their need and with them. I will promise you that He knows how to handle the gossip as well! Gossip is always a sin!
5. Insinuation - This is the practice of insinuating or hinting that something may be wrong in the life of another. When we are guilty of making people doubt another’s reputation, we are guilty of sin before the Lord.
6. Flattery - Flattery is saying something to a person’s face that we would never behind their backs. Usually flattery is given in an attempt to gain something from that individual. Flattery is lying!
7. Exaggeration - This is an easy lie to tell. We stretch number, statistics, etc., to make things look better. What fisherman is there who has not been guilty of stretching the size of the one the got away? When we exaggerate, we are lying!
Some poor husbands and wives have to live with exaggeration:
One pouring night a man ducked into a taxi that happened to come along just as he walked out of his office. "Perfect timing," said the cabbie. "You’re like Harold." "Who?" the man asked. "Harold Curry," the driver said. "A most memorable character. He did everything right. Like this cab coming along when you needed it. That’s exactly what would have happened to Harold. He was always right." The man responded, "Nobody’s that perfect." The cab driver went on, "He was a great athlete. He played tennis and golf like a pro and was a superb dancer. Harold never forgot birthdays and anniversaries. He knew which fork to use and how to taste wine. He was also a great handyman. He could fix anything. Me? I’m all thumbs." Soon they reached the man’s destination. "That Harold was quite a guy," he said, stepping out of the cab. "No wonder he’s your most unforgettable character." As the driver made change for the man he said, "He’d be yours too, if you married his widow."
8. Silence - When we here an untruth told and we remain silent, we are guilty of the "slander of silence." We become a party to the deception by not setting the record straight.
9. "Loose lips sink ships!" This old saying is appropriate for any church. Many churches are in turmoil because of gossiping and foolish talking. God will deal with the gossip. Notice what the Word has to say about the trouble a gossip can cause - Pro. 26:20-28.
C. It Is A Sinful Thing
When we practice any of these methods in regard to another, we are guilty of sin before the Lord!
“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs. 12:22;
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor.” Eph. 4:25.
In fact, God includes abuses of the tongue as three of the seven things He hates the most:
“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. Pro. 6:16-19
Are you guilty of using your tongue to harm another? If so, then you need to repent of that sin and get right with God! When you use you tongue to attack another, you are opening up your life to the judgment of God. James is exactly right when he says the tongue is "World of iniquity."
3. Reputations should be Vigorously Protected
A. Confront the Gossip - Be quick to stand up for those who are being torn apart by the mouth of a gossip. We are just as guilty as the one talking when we stand there listening and do and say nothing in our brother or sister’s defense. Be ready though, most gossips are sneaky, conniving people. They will be just as ready to turn their sharp tongue on you as they would on anyone else! In fact, if a gossip will gossip to you, he/she will probably gossip about you!
B. Conceal the Guilty - This does not mean that we condone sin in the lives of believers. It does mean, however, that we are careful how we handle those who fall into sin. Many lives have been destroyed because people talked about others behind their backs and condemned them instead of praying for them and letting God work it out in His time and in His way. We’ve all heard the saying, “What goes around comes around.” Can anyone tell me who said this? Who made this statement? Who taught this as the truth?
Jesus did! In Matthew 7 Jesus said, “1"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. 2That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. 3It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. 4Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? 5It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”
One time, 20 or so years ago, I was in Japan on a speaking tour with a close personal friend. He was a number of years older than I was. As we walked down the street in Yokohama, Japan, the name of a common friend came up, and I said something unkind about that person. It was sarcastic. It was cynical. It was a put-down. My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was right in front of mine. With deep, slow words he said, "Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend."
He could have put a knife into my ribs, and the pain would not have been any less. But you know something? There have been ten thousand times in the last 20 years that I have been saved from making a jerk of myself. When I’ve been tempted to say something unkind about a brother or sister, I hear my friend’s voice say, "Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not speak in such a way about a friend." Citation: Gordon MacDonald, in the sermon "Feeling As God Feels," Preaching Today #196
C. Here is a good practice for living when it comes to what you will say or refrain from saying. We can form an acrostic from the word THINK. We should THINK before we speak of another.
T - Is it True?
H - Will it Help?
I - Is it Inspiring?
N - Is it Necessary?
K - Is it Kind?
“Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters.” —Anonymous
Three Monkeys: Remember these little guys? Maybe we should strive to live more like them.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How many of you were told this lie as a child? I remember trying to apply the “truth” of this statement handed down to me by well meaning parents very unsuccessfully. The fact is words do hurt. Words can be as cutting and devastating as physical abuse. You can do severe damage to someone by not controlling you tongue.
This morning I want you to spend some time in reflection.
Have your words ever hurt anyone else?
Have your words ever caused someone to turn away from Christ?
Have your words put someone else down to the point that you have stifled their self esteem and confidence?
Have you been wounded by words?
Have you been hurt by constant abusive language?
Are you this morning willing to turn your hurt over to Jesus?
Are you willing to turn your hurting others over to Him?
The outline for this message came from Alan Carr at www.sermonnotebook.org